Monday, May 18, 2020

Bison and Cactus Chili

Nopales Cacti, more commonly known as Prickly Pears, are discoverable by their round, flower-producing petals. These blue-green pads are edible and when processed, add a citrus punch to any dish. They can be purchased at select health food stores, farmers markets, or harvested with a trusted guide.


  • Use freshly ground black pepper for deeper, more potent flavor.
  • Leave some jalapeño seeds for an added kick.
  • Go for all beef or all bison if that’s what you have in the kitchen, or to get the full taste of one type of meat.
  • Be vigilant when purchasing broths and stocks. Read the list of ingredients, less is more. Look for low sodium. Some trusted brands include Pacific Foods, Kettle & Fire, and Bonafide.
  • Consider serving this chili recipe with polenta (pictured below) or cornbread. 

1 cup Nopales cactus, diced
5 jalapeños, halved, deseeded
1 yellow onion, diced, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup cilantro, chopped

5 tablespoons ghee (substitute olive oil, lard, or butter)
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cinnamon (or two!)
1 ½ pounds ground bison
1 pound ground beef
2 cups beef broth
2 ¼ cups water
2 tablespoons masa harina (cornmeal)
1 tablespoon coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
1 ½ tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Optional Toppings:
Sour cream
Lime wedge

Cactus Salsa

1.     Set oven temperature to broil. Place cactus, pepper, jalapeños, and ¼ cup of onions on a baking tray. Add olive oil, salt, cumin, and pepper and toss to fully coat. Broil until golden brown (about 8-10 minutes).
2.     Remove from oven and place ingredients in a high-speed blender. Add the cilantro and pulse until a thick, even texture is produced and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. Set the cactus salsa aside as it will be used as your chili’s base.
3.     Heat a large pot or Dutch oven to medium-high and add the fat. Add rest of the onions and sauté for a few minutes, until aroma develops. Add the garlic, cactus salsa, and spices. Stir occasionally to heat mixture evenly- it will begin to thicken.
4.     Add the meat and quarter into smaller chunks to help separate it, mixing to incorporate. Pour in broth, water, and masa harina, and mix to avoid any clumping. Bring liquid to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer (light bubbles surfacing), cover the lid, and let cook for about 2 hours. Stir occasionally.
5.     Stir in the sugar and vinegar and add salt if needed. Let simmer for another 10 minutes to impart more flavor.
6.     Serve with a dollop of sour cream, freshly chopped cilantro, and a lime wedge.

Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Prickly Pear Cactus Variety

Recipe adapted by Ashley Chavez from Epicurious at
 , author Stanley Lobel, September 2009.

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